Janet Allen announces retirement

Margot Lacy Eccles Artistic Director to retire after the 50th Anniversary Season

After a forty-year career at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Janet Allen will retire from her position as the Margot Lacy Eccles Artistic Director on June 30, 2023, after the 2022–2023 Season. Allen’s final season will also be the IRT’s 50th Anniversary Season, resulting in a union of celebration, reflection, and anticipation for the future.

“After nearly 40 years of service to the IRT, it’s time for change, both for me and the institution,” said Allen. “I have had one of the most wonderful jobs on the planet—making art with amazing professionals from around the country, and sharing that art with the place I call home: central Indiana and its communities of all ages, backgrounds and viewpoints.”

Janet Allen started with the IRT in 1980 as the IRT’s Dramaturg/Literary Manager shortly after the organization moved to its current location in the Indiana Theatre. After a few years, Allen moved to New York City and then returned in the late 1980s as the Associate Artistic Director. After a decade in that role, Allen was promoted to Artistic Director in 1996 and has led the organization artistically and as the Co-CEO for more than 25 years.

Managing Director Suzanne Sweeney, Janet Allen’s Co-CEO for close to a decade, noted that the IRT will dearly miss Janet and recognizes the immeasurable impact that Janet has had on the organization, adding that her work will continue to propel the IRT into the future.

“Janet has been an amazing colleague and collaborator who opens her heart to all of us–from Board members to artists, from staff to patrons. We all will miss her inspirational enthusiasm for the art, and I will personally miss her mentorship, her friendship, and her larger-than-life presence,” Sweeney said.

For four of the five decades of the IRT’s existence, Janet Allen has been at the forefront of guiding the Theatre in its mission to provide inclusive, top-quality, professional theatre and community programming to engage, surprise, challenge and entertain.

“It’s so powerful to be celebrating the longevity of this amazing institution that I have been honored to co-lead, to watch artists rise to the occasion of challenging plays, and to witness audiences fall into stories that will stay with them long after they leave the Theatre,” Allen added.

Co-leading the Theatre for more than half the IRT’s history, Allen has been instrumental in its programmatic and institutional growth, creating work that reaches a racially and culturally diverse, multigenerational audience throughout Indiana and the Midwest. During Allen’s tenure, the Theatre has more than doubled the budget while quadrupling the Theatre’s endowment. Her passion for education has solidified a commitment to welcoming children to experience life-changing literature onstage, growing student matinee attendance to 40% of the Theatre’s service. Allen’s vision also inspired the creation of multiple new play development programs including the Indiana Series, the establishment of an endowed playwright-in-residence position, and a youth playwriting program.

Allen has helped to lead two major capital campaigns which have supported renovations to every public area of the IRT’s historic, 3-venue building, in addition to upgrading theatrical equipment and significant contributions to the Theatre’s endowment fund. To honor and celebrate her work for and in the community, the family of Margot Lacy Eccles, a beloved local philanthropist and long-time supporter of Allen’s career, named and endowed the Artistic Director position.

Allen’s commitment to community has led to an exponential increase in the cultivation and hiring of local talent, truly making the IRT a gathering place for celebration and a launch pad for artists’ careers. IRT’s commitment to Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access has significantly deepened and broadened. This includes the creation of the INclusion Series which gives voice to playwrights of color and invites audiences into conversations around issues of historic injustice, making the IRT a place where civic debate grows out of art-making.

Through all of the institution’s successes and challenges, Allen’s focus has always been on the sustainability of the IRT. While her retirement approaches, the vibrancy, connectivity, and vitality of her tenure and the IRT’s commitment to Indiana will continue into the next 50 years.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the IRT blossom in its next chapter knowing that its base is strong and its staff and Board remarkable,” said Allen. “There is so much to look forward to in IRT’s future as we build on the 50 years of its strength and history.”

IRT Board Chair Mark Shaffer shared the Board’s enormous gratitude for Janet’s leadership and artistry. “The IRT would not be where it is today if it weren’t for Janet’s contributions. Her legacy is profound, and while we will all feel her absence, we are excited to continue to move the IRT forward. Perhaps one of Janet’s greatest legacies is her stewardship, ensuring the Theatre is in a good place to welcome a new leader, and setting that individual up for future success.”

The IRT Board hired Management Consultants for the Arts to conduct an equitable national search to name the IRT’s next Margot Lacy Eccles Artistic Director. The IRT announced on February 20, 2023 that Benjamin Hanna has been named the next Artistic Director and will begin his tenure on July 1, 2023. Learn more about this monumental transition here.